The hometown banner tour takes the old banners that honoured players in Maple Leaf Gardens and the ACC and moves them to the player’s hometowns to be raised there. The banners were replaced this season with new ones marking the retirement of the numbers of 16 players. The Leafs have toured several towns and cities so far.
Bill Barilko and Frank Mahovlich were honoured in Timmins, Ontario in November as part of the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast:
In December they went farther north than Timmins. They went to Kiruna, Sweden, the most northerly city in the country. Kiruna is a city built on an iron mine the same way Timmins is a town built on a gold mine. Places like that seem to produce hockey players of a special kind, and Börje Salming is very special player.
The Leafs sent Tiger Williams to Kiruna to be there with Salming as the banner was raised in the Kiruna arena before a league game of Kiruna IF.
Salming played 16 seasons for the Leafs from 1973 to 1989, and while he was not the first Swedish player to ever play in the NHL, he was definitely the first Swedish star. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996, and his number 21 is now retired by the Leafs with a new banner in the ACC.
Salming opened the door to the NHL for players from Sweden and Europe, and the Swedes haven’t stopped coming since. Because of him, the Leafs enjoyed the tenure of Mats Sundin, and now William Nylander.
And it all began in a place north of the arctic circle: